By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
Dale Earnhardt Jr. can keep a secret -- sort of.
Earnhardt was told not to reveal the outcome of Friday morning's go-kart race against former NBA All-Star Charles Barkley.
Then again, Earnhardt provoked questions about the segment he filmed with Barkley for TNT by tweeting photos of the event.
"I'm not supposed to tell you how it went because they want to leave it for the episode," Earnhardt said Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "I guess it's going to run on TNT with their pre-race coverage, somewhere like Pocono.
"I will tell you this. I was really surprised about how nice he was. I expected him to be a competitor, a little more aggressive in just his personality in knowing what kind of basketball player he was and the kind of guy he was on the court.
"He was fiery, and aggressive, and getting in tussles. But he was super nice. He just came in and was just really gracious and has an appreciation for our sport and was just a real nice guy to be around."
After meeting Barkley, Earnhardt had this to say on Twitter: "Enjoyed meeting Chuck today. Very nice guy. Not a turrible driver either (a spoof on the way Barkley pronounces 'terrible')."
And as far as the outcome of the race, Earnhardt could not resist a hint.
"We'll just have to save the results for later ... but you can imagine how it went," Earnhardt said.
There are those who have described Danica Patrick's seventh-place run last Saturday night at Kansas Speedway as a possible breakthrough.
The driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet does not see it that way. To Patrick, the most significant aspect of her performance was her ability to run wheel to wheel with the best drivers in the sport for the first time at an open-motor race track.
"It was a good weekend," said Patrick, whose solid performances in practice and qualifying carried over into the race. "I feel like I'm feeling the car better and better, but I don't think it was a 'light switch' for me. It was just a weekend that so many good things happened in the race, and we ran with such good cars and passed such good cars that, for me, it gives me confidence, for sure.
"Like I said, I've always believed I can do that, but when you're head-to-head with guys like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jr. ... when you're head-to-head with those guys, then it's another story on its own."
Patrick also appeared confident that more strong runs are in the offing.
"I think that if we keep doing what we're doing and keep our heads down and not get flustered ... not every single weekend is going to be like that for anyone, but we'll have more of those, for sure."
KENSETH AND JOHNSON NOT EXACTLY HAS-BEENS
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' two most prolific 2013 winners -- Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson -- have yet to visit Victory Lane this year.
Never at a loss for a deadpan answer, Kenseth expressed mock concern on Friday for the six-time champion's "plight."
"He's probably washed up; I think he's done," Kenseth quipped, when asked whether Johnson had lost his air of vulnerability. "I don't know it's hard to win races. Everything has to go right. He's had some dominant cars this year a few times and hasn't won. Until you get the win and bust through and win some races, you always have that little feeling in your stomach like, 'Man, we need to win.'"
Kenseth and Johnson combined for 13 victories last year, and Kenseth led the series with seven.
"I'm more worried about us winning right now than him," Kenseth said. "I don't think anybody has much to worry about him not being the guy to beat when it gets down to it at the end of the year again, like they usually are every year.